As technology continues to permeate all aspects of business and influence how employees execute their roles, there is a growing need for more technologically proficient employees to quickly become future-ready. To enable this, organisations need to develop strategies and support parameters to reskill and upskill their workers.
Why the Need to Retrain and Reskill
Retraining and reskilling are nothing new, and industries have witnessed it several times in the past. The Industrial Revolution replaced many workers with mechanised tools and machinery. Workers who embraced change, and learned how to use the machines, replaced those who did not or could not. It is true that every new technology creates its own turbulence. What is unique this time is that the shift is happening faster as technology advances exponentially. So, people need to retrain and upskill quicker if they are to keep pace with the changing technology landscape.
Both manual and cognitive tasks are being empowered by machines and AI algorithms. There is also a shortage of a skilled workforce with the right technical training. Here is why the need for technological skills has increased exponentially over the last few years:
Productivity. Organisations are looking for ways to increase productivity and are spending time on identifying technologies that can help them compete in the future. The introduction of AI and automation is replacing legacy systems and displacing positions such as junior executives, administrative staff, customer service executives and so on. Chatbots and novel interactive robotic companions are offering better productivity with an ability to work 24×7 without taking breaks and can be updated and taught new skills with some minor changes in their algorithm. To understand and to work on AI and chatbot queries, employees require special training and skills. For instance, in a customer care team, if a chatbot is not able to respond to a query it can then be passed to a customer service executive who is able to work in tandem with the AI tool to solve the query.
Profitability. The primary reason why organisations look to technology-driven automation is to create an impact on their profit margin. While making the investment in the technology often requires an upfront cost, once the systems are in place there is a positive impact on productivity and hence more profits. Organisations should ideally invest part of the profits to implement more advanced technology and upskilling their current employees. The lower productivity workers often add up to the costs and reskilling them can save money and lead to more seamless workforce integration. For instance, Fintech is being used increasingly to automate decisions such as instant loan approval, KYC, fraud detection and other financial crimes. This does not remove the need for subject matter experts and those that have experience and expertise in the domain – they can train those automated systems by feeding queries, analysing outputs and helping the organisation improve their automated process.
Avoiding being Obsolete. In this digital era, even individuals possessing decades of work experience might get outdated if they do not keep pace with an evolving landscape. Lacking an ability to understand and empathise with technology is often a consequence of improper training. Employees require training at regular intervals – if they do not have the expertise and cannot give the right feedback to these automated systems, there might be serious consequences. As an example, most organisations planning to procure software will also evaluate SaaS solutions. This requires employees to be flexible to adapt to the Cloud environment and to look beyond the legacy systems that they are comfortable with.
Mergers and Acquisitions. In today’s competitive market, we witness mergers and acquisitions almost on a daily basis, with organisations wanting to gain skills, services, technology and ultimately market share. When a company is bought or merges with another, along with a change in leadership and organisational culture, there is also a change in technology used. If organisations want to retain the expertise of the newly acquired firm, retraining becomes essential. In these new set-ups, what will matter more than seniority is the ability of the employees to adapt to and learn the new technologies.
Being Competitive. Technology is seen as an enabler for business differentiation. Increasingly the twin focus areas for all organisations are customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) – how to retain and win both customers and employees. When it comes to outperforming the competition, the technology used for the eCommerce platform, point-of-sale solution, back-office operations – virtually every part of the operation, can be a key component of the overall competitive edge. Having workers that are properly trained in the technology they use, and those who buy into the organisational culture will be a crucial advantage in this competitive world.
How to incorporate retraining and reskilling in your Transformation Journey
Organisations should follow best practices when embarking on reskilling initiatives, in order to rapidly drive ROI. It is always a good idea to invest in people who are invested in your organisation. Amit Gupta, CEO, Ecosystm interviewed Parry Singh, Chief Commercial & Digital Officer, Mediacorp where they discussed how emerging technologies such as AI, are impacting the media industry, how to carry an organisation through the digital transformation journey and how to upskill employees for the future. The key takeaways for organisations looking to retain their valuable staff are:
- Realise that learning is a continuous process. Companies should analyse technologies that will impact their business and their industry. But should also be aware that these technologies will evolve continually. To handle this learning should also be continuous. Walmart, for instance, has set up more than 100 “academies” in the US that provide continual classroom and hands-on training for various positions. Having the right talent in place is critical to the prospects of any organisation.
- Make arrangements for just-in-time learning. Learning works best when people can apply their new-found knowledge and skills almost immediately. Organisations should identify the skills that employees will need in their immediate role. This also helps employees appreciate the value of the training and be open to future upskilling. NUS Business School offers a 3-day course, Leveraging Fintech for Business aimed at leaders and managers, to explore the business impact of Fintech – aimed at entrepreneurs and mid-career financial professionals who wish to upskill and those who are impacted by Fintech. Organisations can provide employees with on-demand learning tools and resources. Tools like mobile apps and online courses can help employees to learn and grow and allow them to engage with the program at their convenience and at their own pace instead of forcing them to adhere to a pre-planned schedule.
- Partner if you do not have the right training process. An organisation cannot always be expected to have the right training resources available in-house – it might also prove to be expensive in the long run. Organisations that lack expertise or do not have enough resources to train and reskill employees, should partner with technology providers and dedicated external training programs. SkillsFuture in Singapore has partnered with IBM to train 2,500 Singaporeans on AI skills within the next three years, in a bid to help them apply AI in areas such as human resources, supply chain management, and media.
Technology-enabled automation will displace some workers while at the same time provide a platform for them to grow their careers and play a larger part in the success of the organisations. Companies can enable this transition through investments in training and education and provide a platform for workers to transition to new jobs. With the right tools, companies can continue to forge a long-term and mutually beneficial association with their employees in the face of rapid and increasing digital transformation.